Welcome back everyone! Were you the IT Support for your friends and family during the holidays?
Last year, in my infamous "Laptop for Grandma" blog post series, I discussed my week exploring various Linux distributions (aka "distros") to find one that would re-purpose Grandma's laptop into an MP3 player. Here is the entire series for your reference.
With Microsoft [dropping support for Windows XP this April], many people got new PCs for the holidays.
(Why not just upgrade to a newer version of Windows in place? Well, [Microsoft Windows 7 requires a minimum of 1GB of RAM, with 4GB recommended], and these old machines simply do not have enough memory. If the motherboard could support the hardware and software upgrades, the cost of Windows 7 license and 4GB of RAM might get into hundreds of dollars!)
So what happens to the old machines? They come to me, of course, with three requests:
I had six old machines to work on this year. Generally, I only get the towers, as most people keep their mouse, keyboard and monitor for their next machine.
For five of them, the process was fairly straightforward. First, I would boot up the system to see what it was running, typically Windows XP or Windows Vista, and simply transfer the "My Documents" folder to an external USB drive.
If the system doesn't boot on its own, perhaps because the OS is corrupted on the hard drive or infected by a virus, then I would boot a Linux-based LiveCD, such as my favorite [SystemRescueCD], and copy the data over to USB external drive that way.
(The shred tool is more thorough, but I prefer scrub for its ease-of-use. Its default National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) method writes over the entire disk four times with different random patterns of data.)
Third, I would do a fresh install of the now out-dated Linux Mint 12 LXDE from CD. Why Linux Mint 12 LXDE? I don't have to worry about any licensing issues with Linux. Linux Mint is the [fourth most widely used home operating system] in the world.
The latest version of Linux Mint is 16, and version 13 has Long Term Support through 2017, but version 12 is the last release small enough to fit on a 700MB CD for the old machines that cannot read the higher capacity DVD media.
Linux Mint comes with various graphical interfaces, but the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment [LXDE] edition runs in as low as 256MB of memory, the minimum that Windows XP requires. Many newer operating systems expect 1GB or more. The machine is then ready to give to charity. Whomever gets it can certainly install a different OS if they prefer.
So, the process went smoothly for the first five, but the sixth machine gave me an interesting challenge. Here are the specs:
Operating System: Windows 98 Processor: AMD-K6 (Pentium II-class) 150 MHz RAM: 32MB Hard disk: 10GB Removable media: 3.5-inch floppy and CD-ROM drive Keyboard port: standard PS/2 mouse port: 6-pin DIN Ethernet NIC: 10Mb USB ports: none
Yikes! Windows 98? 32MB of RAM? Even a [Raspberry Pi] has more than this!
My keyboard fits, but my mouse doesn't, so I had to look up Windows 98 keyboard shortcuts to navigate the system. The age of the files indicates this machine was actively used from 1999 to 2005. While most people only keep a PC for 3-5 years, this hardware is 14 years old! It has been sitting in Judy's closet collecting dust the rest of the time.
Without USB port or CD burner, there were only two ways to get data off this system. First, was the 1.44MB floppy disk, and the second was through the Ethernet card. I was able to configure TCP/IP and connect via FTP back to my FTP server, allowing me to copy the files over.
Most of my LiveCDs that I tried just froze mid-boot without sufficient memory. Not even my SystemRescueCD would boot. I was able to use [Basic Linux BL3 version 3.5] which boots from two floppy diskettes and requires only 12MB of RAM.
Basic Linux has neither shred nor scrub utilities, so I used old school "dd" command, which was painfully slow.
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda1
While this was not as secure as NNSA, Department of Defense (DoD), or Guttman methods of erasure, I figured it was good enough for a 14-year old machine that had not been used since 2005.
While BL3 includes an install-to-hd script to copy the files over to the hard drive, I could not get LILO to boot natively from /dev/hda1. So, I switched to booting from Damn Small Linux [DSL] LiveCD. Using the "dsl 2" boot cheat code, I was able to boot directly to a superuser text-based prompt, allowing me to create two partitions, a 128MB swap and the rest for an ext2 file system.
DSL only requires 8MB of RAM, but having the extra 128MB swap ensures success. I was able to install DSL on the hard drive, fix up lilo.conf, and boot directly from it.
What a great way to start a new year! Happy New Year everyone!
..., nor any drop to drink"From Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798), by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Actually, I've been so busy this week that I am just now getting to this week's theme of Smarter Water. Since it was St. Patrick's Day this week, I thought of discussing IBM's project to help Ireland. Working with the Marine Institute Ireland, IBM has created a system to monitor wave conditions, marine life and pollution levels in and around Galway Bay. Here is quick excerpt from IBM [Press Release]:
"This real-time advanced analytics pilot is turning mountains of data into intelligence, paving the way for smarter environmental management and development of the bay.
Or... I could have used water as a metaphor for the "tidal wave" of information. For many,we have a lot of raw data, but not suitably digestible information in the form we need it.
But then I found this photo.
At this point, you might be asking what any of this has to do with IBM.
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Wrapping up my week in China, I read an article by Li Xing in the local "China Daily" about energy efficiency in buildings. She argues that it is not enough for a building to be energy-efficient on its own, but you have to consider the impact of the other buildings around. Does it reflect the sun so harshly into neighboring windows that people are forced to put up blinds and use artificial light? Does it block the sun, so that rooms that previously could be used with natural sunlight must now be artificially lit?
A similar effect happens with power and cooling in the data center. Servers and storage systems generate heat, and that heat affects all the other equipment in the data center. IBM has the most power-efficient and heat-efficient servers and storage, but that is not enough. You have to consider the heat generated by all systems that might raise overall temperature.
This is what motivated IBM to deliver the IBM Rear Door Heat eXchanger, a member of IBM's CoolBlue(tm) portfolio.
According to a press release:
Research has indicated that water can remove far more heat per volume unit than air. For example, in order to disperse 1,000 watts, with 10 degree temperature difference, only 24 gallons of water per hour is needed, while the same space would require nearly 11,475 cubic feet of air. IBM's Rear Door Heat eXchanger helps keep growing datacenters at safe temperatures, without adding AC units. The unobtrusive solution brings more cooling capacity to areas where heat is the greatest -- around racks of servers with more powerful and multiple processors.
The eXchanger works on standard 42U racks, and can help clients deal with the rapid growth of rack-mounted servers and storage on their raised floor. How cool is that!
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Happy "Earth Day 2008" everyone!
[Earth Day] is celebrated in many countries on April 22, which marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Others celebrate this on the March equinox.
IBM has finally aggregated everything that we are doing around "Green" initiatives onto a single[IBM Green] landing page. This has everything from IBM's own activities as well as what we sell to our clients.
IBM also developed [Power Up, the Game], which is theEarth Day Network's "official" game for today's festivities. It's a 3-D game created by IBM Research to help save a fictitious planet - the goal being to help students learn about ecology and climate change. This game is also hoped to motivate young students to get interested in math, scienceand technology.Eightbar has a great post [PowerUp - A serious game out inthe wild] discussing this.Here's also a 3-minute[the making of "Power Up, the game" video] to geta behind-the-scenes look.The game is a downloadable Windows client that then connects to the main servers to run.
If you prefer the real world over virtual worlds, IBMer Harald Fuchs, from IBM Germany, is currently trekking across Greenland's polar ice cap. You can follow along on his blog:[Greenland Crossing 2008].Fellow IBM blogger "Turbo" Todd Watson writes about this in his post [Where on the Greenland Ice Sheet is Harald Fuchs?]Read More]
IBM has launched a new blog, focused on making [a smarter planet]. In my post,[The New Year in Six Words], Idiscussed the part of Sam Palmisano's speech that mentioned a small $30 Billion investmentcould result in 950,000 new jobs. For those who wondered how IBM arrived to that figure,here are two posts:
Can this week get any better? We have the Arizona Cardinals going to the Superbowl, andtomorrow we inaugurate Barack Obama as the 44th US President.Read More]
I returned safely from my trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
(A special shout-out to Shannon at [In The Raw] sushi restaurant, and my new friends I met at the rooftop of [the Mayo]!)
Last week I was in Auckland, New Zealand teaching Top Gun class. Top Gun teaches IBM Business Partners and sales reps how to sell our products, services, and solutions. I have been teaching Top Gun classes around the world since 1998.
(Why didn't I post sooner? Because IBM's developerWorks was getting an exciting upgrade to IBM Connections 4.0, and bloggers like me have to wait for the conversion to complete!)
While many of my trips in the USA involve traveling alone, that is not the case for Top Gun classes. Our class manager, Joe Ebidia, brought his wife Karen. Our class administrator is Hyein (Hyein is a Korean name that rhymes with rain). In addition to some local instructors, I am joined by my IBM USA colleagues Scott McPeek (Tivoli Storage) and Vic Peltz (Dis
The rest of the teach team arrived a day or two early to adjust to jet lag. I, on the other hand, got off the plane Monday at 6am, and had a business meeting that same morning with GTS architects from Wellington.
(To those asking why I have only the bellies of Karen and Joe in the picture, I was focused on taking picture of the food.)
After setting up the classroom, we took a ferry over to [Devonport], a charming seaside village just minutes across the bay from Auckland. The ferry boats were close the the Central Business District our [Stamford Plaza hotel] was in, and they run every 30 minutes.
The four of us walked up to the top of Mt. Victoria to see the views of the city. I highly recommend this! Once you get to Devonport, you can walk along the streets to see all the cute shops, or enjoy the parks and natural beauty. I had [done this before], but it is always worth doing again!
The class is four days long. I had six presentations. Here were the first three:
I will save the rest of the week for the next post!
Some upcoming books have caught my attention.
Last year, I covered Chris Anderson's book [The Long Tail]. This year, Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired.com, has an upcoming book titled Free, the past and future of a radical price. Chris talked about his book here at Nokia World 2007 conference, and the [46-minute video] is worth watching.He asks the big question "What if certain resources were free?" This could be electricity, bandwidth, or storage capacity. He explores how this changes the world, and crea Nick Carr writes a post [Dominating the Cloud], indicatingthat IBM, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon are the five computing giants to watch, as they are more efficient atconverting electricity into computing than anyone else. Last month, I mentioned IBM and Google partnership on cloud computing in my post[Innovationthat matters: cell phones and cloud computing].Nick's upcoming book titled[The Big Switch] looks into "Utility Comp Last, but not least, Seth Godin writes in his post [Meatballs and Permeability] about the bits-vs-atoms issue, what Chris Anderson above refers to as the new digital economy. The idea here is that value carried electronically as bits (digital documents, for example) have completely different economics than value carried as atoms (physical objects), andrequires new marketing techniques. Methods from traditional marketing will not be effective in this new age.Here is a [review] of Seth's new book Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing Out of Sync? All three of these books seem to be covering the same phenomenon, just from different viewpoints. I lookforward to reading them. technorati tags: Long Tail, Chris Anderson, Wired, Nokia World, secondlife, cross-subsidy, digital economy, Nick Carr, Big Switch, utility computing, IBM, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, SimpleDB, Seth Godin, Meatball Sundae, bits, atoms
Nick Carr writes a post [Dominating the Cloud], indicatingthat IBM, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon are the five computing giants to watch, as they are more efficient atconverting electricity into computing than anyone else. Last month, I mentioned IBM and Google partnership on cloud computing in my post[Innovationthat matters: cell phones and cloud computing].Nick's upcoming book titled[The Big Switch] looks into "Utility Comp Last, but not least, Seth Godin writes in his post [Meatballs and Permeability] about the bits-vs-atoms issue, what Chris Anderson above refers to as the new digital economy. The idea here is that value carried electronically as bits (digital documents, for example) have completely different economics than value carried as atoms (physical objects), andrequires new marketing techniques. Methods from traditional marketing will not be effective in this new age.Here is a [review] of Seth's new book Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing Out of Sync? All three of these books seem to be covering the same phenomenon, just from different viewpoints. I lookforward to reading them. technorati tags: Long Tail, Chris Anderson, Wired, Nokia World, secondlife, cross-subsidy, digital economy, Nick Carr, Big Switch, utility computing, IBM, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, SimpleDB, Seth Godin, Meatball Sundae, bits, atoms
Last, but not least, Seth Godin writes in his post [Meatballs and Permeability] about the bits-vs-atoms issue, what Chris Anderson above refers to as the new digital economy. The idea here is that value carried electronically as bits (digital documents, for example) have completely different economics than value carried as atoms (physical objects), andrequires new marketing techniques. Methods from traditional marketing will not be effective in this new age.Here is a [review] of Seth's new book Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing Out of Sync?
All three of these books seem to be covering the same phenomenon, just from different viewpoints. I lookforward to reading them.
technorati tags: Long Tail, Chris Anderson, Wired, Nokia World, secondlife, cross-subsidy, digital economy, Nick Carr, Big Switch, utility computing, IBM, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, SimpleDB, Seth Godin, Meatball Sundae, bits, atoms[Read More]
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Stephen over at RupturedMonkey discusses the challenges of recruiting storage admi
There is actually a great standard called Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) that applies not just to storage administrators, but other IT personnel such as network administrators and server administrators. Here's a quick web-site about ITIL History:
ITIL History can be traced back to the late 1980’s when the British government determined that the level of IT service quality provided to them was not sufficient enough. The Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), now called the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), was tasked with developing a framework for efficient and financially responsible use of IT resources within the British government and the private sector.
This standard spread from the UK to other governments in Europe, and is now being adopted worldwide by government agencies, non-profit organizations and commercial enterprises. IBM, of course, has been involved along the way, encouraging this set of best practices to take hold.
IBMer John Long, in ITSM Watch article, points outsome key points:
The general process is now referred to as "IT Service Management", and the seven ITIL books are managed by the IT Service Management forum (ITSMf).
ITIL is vendor-independent. You can learn ITIL disciplines at one IT shop, and carry those skills with you when you go to another IT shop that has completely different gear. A common vocabulary would allow employers to post jobs in a consistent manner, and ask questions to those interviewing for the job. You can be ITIL-trained, and even ITIL-certified. IBM offers this training.
Of course, specific skills on how to use specific software to configure storage devices, request change control approvals, or define SAN zones, are useful, but often can be picked up on the job, reading the vendor manuals on the specifics. Of course, you can use IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center, which would allow someone to manage a variety of disk, tape and SAN fabric gear from one interface, greatly reducing the learning curve.
technorati tags: IBM, ITIL, IT, Service, Management, standards, storage, administrators, admins, skills, recruitment, vocabulary, TotalStorage, Prod
My father's favorite question is "What's the worst that could happen?" He is retired now, but workedat the famous [Kitt Peak National Observatory] designing some of the largesttelescopes. Designing telescopes followed well-established mechanical engineering best practices, but each design was unique,so there was always a chance that the end result would not deliver the expected results. What's the worst that can happen? For telescopes, a few billion dollars are wasted and a few years are added to the schedule. Scrap it and start over. Nothing unrecoverable for the US government with unlimited resources and patience.
Over the weekend, we discussed the lawsuit to stop CERN from potentially destroying the planet. Dennis Overbye writes about this in his New York Times article titled["Asking a Judge to Save the World, and Maybe a Whole Lot More"]. Here's an excerpt:
... the rest of the grimness on the front page today will matter a bit, though, if two men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii turn out to be right. They think a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth — and maybe the universe.
What's the worst that can happen? Scientists now agree that it is sometimes difficult to predict, and someeffects may be unrecoverable.
Unfortunately, this is not the only example of people attempting things they may not understand well enough. Theweb comic below has someone complaining they are out of disk space, and the sales rep suggests solving this with a few commands which will result in deleting all her files. Hopefully, most people reading will recognize this is meant as humor, and not actually attempt the code fragments to "see what they do".
Sadly, I often encounter clients who have a "keep forever" approach to their production data. When they are seriously out of space, they feel forced to either buy more disk storage, or start "the big Purge": deleting rows from their database tables, emails older than 90 days, or some other drastic measures. With a focus on keeping down IT budgets, I fear that thesedrastic measures are growing more common. What's the worst that could happen? You might need that data for defending yourself against a lawsuit, or need it to continue to provide service to a loyal client, or just continue normal business operations.I have visited companies where a junior administrator chose the "big Purge" option, without a full understanding ofwhat they were doing, resulting in business disruption until the data could be recovered or re-entered.
IBM offers a better way. Data that may not be needed on disk forever could be moved to lower-cost tape, using up less energy and less floorspace in your data center. Solutions can automatically delete the data systematically based on chronological or event-based retention policies, with the option to keep some data longer in response to a "legal hold" request.
That's certainly better than to risk shrinking your business into a "dense dead lump"!Read More]
This week, I have been presenting how to do important things without travel. Of course, there are times where you need some boots on the ground, while your support team remains remote.
Last month, fellow co-worker Liz Goodman reached out to me. She was part of a ten-person team that went to Tanzania as part of IBM's[Corporate Service Corps]. Other teams went to Brazil, China, Ghana, Romania, South Africa, The Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam.(I've been to half these other countries, but the closest I have ever been toTanzania was a safari I took in Kenya that included the Masai Mara national park which runsalong the border with Tanzania's Serengheti national park).
Liz was one of the lucky[200 candidates chosen among over 5000 applications] IBM reviews each year for this program. IBM does business in over170 countries, so learning to work in or with emerging growth markets requires a bit of "cultural intelligence".Liz and three others worked with the University of Dudoma [UDOM] to lead some students in adopting a [Moodle] infrastructure based on Linux, Apache, PHP and MySQL [LAMP] platform. She noticed that I had experience with both Moodle and LAMP from [my work with OLPC], and reached out to me for help.I was able to provide some insight, things to watch out for, and how to tackle not just the technical challenges, but a few that many don't consider:
How well did her team do? Liz blogged before, during and after her trip. Read all about iton her blog [Liz Goes To Tanzania]!Read More]